The New York Times article about New Zealand, know to the Maori's as Aotearoa or "land of the long white cloud," is a walk down memory lane for me.
Adventure seekers flock to New Zealand. I went because I had resigned from my college newspaper and as "newspaper girl" simply didn't know who I was anymore. Sounds silly now, but at 20, I was quite upset. A friend of mine, who is a whopping five years older -- again, at 20, it seems bigger than it does now at 27 since I realize I had no idea what I was doing at 25, I took advice from that guy? He had spent a year after college traveling the world, including nine months in Australia, New Zealand's neighbor that often overshadows New Zealand, sadly.
At lunch one day, when I was having a woe is me moment and whatever will I do with my life without the newspaper meltdown, he said to me, "Jenn, you are not tied down. You can do anything."
"Do you like the beach?"
"Go to New Zealand."
Seriously, that's how it went down.
I went home that night after classes and my parents where in the entry way or kitchen or somewhere near the door when I walked in. I lived at home that year, my junior year, because it was only about 20 miles from campus and I barely had time to sleep, so I figured it was ridiculous to spend a few thousand dollars a year for a room I spent so little time in.
Mom and/or Dad: "How was your day?"
Me: "I quit the newspaper and I'm going to New Zealand."
Blank stares from the parents.
But, not too much later, I was on a plane to the adventure capital of the world.
In the article, the author cheats death a few times (okay, not really, but you do feel that way doing some of these activities.)
When we arrived in New Zealand (we, being all the other American students who were part of the program) we could go zorbing, which is rolling down a hill in a giant plastic bubble. I opted out of that one since I hadn't really slept in a few days and was pretty sure I'd get sick. But, we also went to the hot springs and caving near Roturua on the North Island.
During a break in classes, I spent two weeks exploring the South Island, which is where I lived at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch.
I happened to win a pass for bungee jumping in Queenstown, so I did it. Otherwise, I'm pretty positive I wouldn't have. I'd never had an overwhelming desire to jump of a bridge in a canyon, 141 feet above a river, but you know, why not?
Before hand, I wasn't too nervous. Even getting the safety briefing and getting out to the bridge, I was fine. Until the girl ahead of the kid ahead of me couldn't decide to jump or not. She was going to do, then she wasn't. Then she was, then she wasn't. Finally, the bungee guy said jump or leave. She jumped. The kid in front of me had no issues.
Then it was my turn. Creeping up to the edge, 141 feet above the river looked a whole lot higher. I was all set and firmly tied to the bridge that I was about to jump off of. The guy said, "Okay, go for it. Five, four, three..."
"Hold on, hold on!" (You actually to jump off a bridge, you know, exactly the opposite of when your mom says, if so and so jumped off a bridge, would you? Well, yes, mom, I would.)
"What, are you scared?"
"No, I just wasn't ready. Start over!"
"Five, four, three, two..."
I closed my eyes and more fell than jumped. I just couldn't throw myself off a bridge at 141 feet above a river, but with my eyes closed, I sort of just leaned forward until gravity did the work.
My eyes stayed firmly shut until I had hit the bottom (just above the water line) and was starting to bounce back up and down. It was kind of spectacular to just be floating in the air for a second (despite the fact that in reality you're hurtling toward water/earth and certain death without the nifty bungee cord they invented at AJ Hackett.
After you finish your jump, you're just hanging from a bridge above the river. Some guys float out to you in a little raft and with a plastic pipe they hold up to you and you grab on, then basically dump you in the raft and float you back to the river's edge, where you have to climb back up the 141 feet you just fell from. Pretty much straight up. I found that my legs were a little like jelly after the jump, so getting back to the top where my friends were waiting was tough work.
They'd been shouting USA, USA, USA! as I jumped, but I hardly noticed, the whole hurtling toward a river thing. But, I bought the dvd of the entire event to prove to everyone at home that I did in fact jump off a bridge and I wouldn't probably not want to do it again. You can hear the patriotic chant in the background. Funnier still, because the friends with me were an Irish lass and lad, a girl from England and a girl from Germany.
Up next, we got back in our rental car and headed to see the All Blacks (the national rugby team) play South Africa in the Tri-Nations cup. We won of course.
There was also horseback riding in Queenstown. My horse, Sledge, was in the Lord of the Rings. He wasn't a prominent horse, but still, he was more famous than the others and he knew it. So we fell further and further behind the group, because Sledge would go at exactly his own pace, because he's a celebrity.
But, toward the end, he decided we should catch up. The guide had taught me how to trot, in case we got behind just as we did, but Sledge would have none of it. I did what I was told to make him go faster and instead, we galloped the rest of the way, blowing past the others. I'm also glad the guide gave me this nugget of advice: if nothing else, hold on to the mane for dear life. I did. But, I loved galloping. The guide told me she'd never seen a first time rider gallop so well. Apparently, most people are absolutely frantic if the horse takes off like that. I asked if I could do it again.
I'll have to continue this later, because there are many more adventures to write about, but this is getting a bit long.
Read the NY Times article and then book a flight to New Zealand. Do it. You know you want to.